Weeks of rain have caused havoc for the Illawarra’s young footballers, with hundreds of kids across the region missing out on weeks of training and the first two games of the season due to soggy, dangerous grounds.
For Dapto Junior Football Club under-7 players Daniel Field, Cody Edwards and Finley Easton – who are among more than 440 club members – training was supposed to start in early March and games were set to begin two weeks ago.
But as persistent heavy showers delivered nearly three times the average March rainfall in some parts of the region, their regular fields have been deemed unfit for play by Wollongong and Shellharbour councils and the football clubs.
Dapto Junior Football Club president Adrian Crawley said he had been contacted by many ‘‘frustrated and disappointed’’ parents affected by the fields’ closure.
He urged them to be patient during the wet weather, saying the clubs and councils were doing everything possible to make sure the fields were fit to use as soon as possible.
‘‘Wet fields mean players’ legs can give way or the ground can become uneven, making it easy for something to roll or even break their ankles,’’ Mr Crawley said.
‘‘If we let them play and then someone broke their leg, they’d be out for the whole season so it’s better to be patient now and miss one weekend.
‘‘And the fields have to last the season too – otherwise they’ll be trashed by winter.’’
Missed matches would be made up with extra matches held on long weekends throughout the year.
Wollongong council’s recreation services manager Steven Maidment said the majority of council grounds were at saturation point and opening them to sport would result in extensive damage to the playing surface.
‘‘Grounds are currently inspected on a daily basis,’’ he said.
‘‘We need at least a full week of good drying conditions before we could open up all grounds as we still have some goalposts and synthetic wicket covers to install that require the use of heavy machinery that at this stage cannot be taken onto saturated playing surfaces.’’
Rain is forecast to continue through until Thursday.
Thirty-four Shellharbour City clubs will be impacted by ground closures in Shellharbour this weekend.
In Kiama however, while the council makes the call on ground closures during the week, the municipality’s 15 winter clubs are given more latitude on weekends.
If clubs themselves deem the grounds suitable for competition games then they can play, subject to the regional sports associations not cancelling whole competition rounds.
Kiama council’s director of engineering Bryan Whittaker said Kiama’s system worked well in 2013.
‘‘There were sensible decisions made,’’ Mr Whittaker said.
‘‘Clubs know if they ruin the ground they are ruining it for themselves, and if they do make a poor decisions they risk losing that privilege.’’
Shellharbour City Council recently introduced a system where grounds were placed in three categories based on how a ground was affected by the weather.
But as of this weekend grounds in all categories have been closed.
Clubs with grounds less affected by wet weather have an option of paying a bond to play on the ground after a soaking.
A Shellharbour council spokeswoman said of the 34 clubs that use the city’s fields for winter sports, nine had wet weather bonds.
The council said the level of saturation of the Shellharbour fields meant that four to five days of dry weather was needed before possible access to some grounds.
- ALEX ARNOLD